Honda & Hitachi Join Forces on Electric Vehicle Motors

News out Japan sees Honda and Hitachi starting a joint venture that will focus on providing motors for electric vehicles. The two companies signed today what they call a “memorandum of understanding, which is the Japanese business version of getting a promise ring to start a future company together. The still unnamed joint venture will be located in Hitachinaka City in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and be initially capitalized with ¥5 billion (~$44 million). Honda Motor Co. and Hitachi Automotive Systems hope to finalize this deal by March 2017, and the new company will have subsidiaries in China and the United States – both of which will have sales and production capabilities.

US Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Close the EPA by 2018

A bill has been presented to the United States House of Representatives that would seek the closure of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by 2018. Proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), HB 861 will likely be a mixed bag for motorcycle enthusiasts, as it will deregulate environmental restrictions set at the federal level, leaving states to draft or adopt their own provisions, which will likely have a fracturing effect on the regulatory market for motorcycles. But, it will also mean the abolition of EPA regulations that many motorcyclists oppose, like the blending of ethanol in our fuel, and restrictions on noise, emissions, and vehicle modifications.

KTM Invests in Heads-Up Display Company NUVIZ

Heads-up display (HUD) company NUVIZ just took a strategic investment from Pierer Industrie AG, the company behind KTM, Husqvarna, WP Suspension, and others. Today’s news is quite a catch for the San Diego based technology startup, and it bodes well for NUVIZ to bring its heads-up display technology to market. As such, NUVIZ hopes to have a heads-up display unit and connected rider system available in the first half of 2017. NUVIZ has raised roughly $9 million to date, via equity and debt, and our sources tell us that KTM’s purchase into the company has contributed to the lions’s share of that amount – upwards of $5 million, along with a seat on NUVIZ’s board of directors.

Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team Debuts

In an airplane hangar in Austria, Honda’s World Superbike team unveiled its wings…that is to say, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team debuted in the energy drink’s Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg today. As the name implies, Red Bull will be the title sponsor for Nicky Hayden’s and Stefan Bradl’s World Superbike title bid this year, on the updated 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2. This is the first time that Red Bull has been a title sponsor in the WorldSBK paddock, though the energy drink company’s livery can be seen on variety of bodywork throughout motorsport. “It’s a new year with a new bike, new title partner and new teammate, so there are definitely many changes ahead and a lot of things to look forward to,” said former MotoGP Champion Nicky Hayden.

PJ Jacobsen Gives His First Impressions of MV Agusta

PJ Jacobsen will once again be the sole American representation in World Supersport this year. The New Yorker had his first taste of his MV Agusta F3 in the dry while at the Jerez test, and came away suitably impressed by the bike that has won eight races in the hands of Jules Cluzel in recent years. The 23-year-old tested the bike in Jerez last year in what was seen as a shootout for the ride, but on a damp track he didn’t get a real feel for the bike. “Today was my first day on the bike this year,” said Jacobsen. “I did half a day on the MV last November in Jerez, but it was half wet, half dry so today was good to get out there. It was fully dry so I learned a lot and I’m quite happy with it. The bike is totally different to what I’ve ridden in the past, but the team works really well and they’ve impressed me.”

Check Out the 2017 Honda RC213V

The MotoGP launch season is still upon us, and now that we have seen the teams and bikes from Ducati, Suzuki, and Yamaha – it is time for Honda to take the wraps off the team its campaigning for its title defense. Debuting the 2017 Honda RC213V at a press event in Indonesia, not much has changed outwardly for the 240+ horsepower GP bike, though there a subtle differences to be seen, if you look closely and compare it to last year’s bike. The Repsol Honda fairings cover the biggest change that we know of, as reports from the test tracks confirm that Honda is experimenting with a “big-bang like” firing order on its V4 engine, a change from the “screamer” configuration of last season, which was handful for Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to manage.

2016 Was A Very Good Year for Husqvarna

Last year proved to be a tough year for many brands, especially those with operations in the United States, but that wasn’t the case for Husqvarna. The rebooted Swedish brand is seeing good life while under its Austrian ownership. Making 2016 a very good year for Husqvarna, the brand is reporting a sales increase of a whopping 43% over 2015’s sales numbers. That is no small feat for Husqvarna, as 2015 was already a record year for the dirt-focuses brand, where it saw a 32% increase. Of course in many ways, up is the only direction Husqvarna can go, after its purchase by Pierer Industrie AG. Still, Husqvarna’s figure of 30,700 sold motorcycles in 2016 is a marked improvement from the near 10,000 units it was producing while part of BMW Motorrad.

2017 Suzuki GSX-RR Debuts in Malaysia

Debuting this weekend in Malaysia, the ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP team has unveiled its team and livery for the 2017 season, which will see Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins riding the update Suzuki GSX-RR race bike. Suzuki has already shown that it has a bike capable of hunting for podiums; and on its best days, it can be a race-winner as well. For the 2017 season though, the Japanese brand hopes to build upon its success in 2016. As such, the ECSTAR Suzuki team has high hopes with the arrival Andrea Iannone, hoping that “Maniac Joe” can add some more wins to Suzuki’s tally. Looking long-term too, the addition of Alex Rins could be strong investment by Team Manager Davide Brivio, with Rins being one of Moto2’s top talents.

OEMs Are Trying to Block “Right to Repair” Laws

Asphalt & Rubber readers should be familiar with how attempts have been made to use the Digital Millennium Right Act (DMCA) as means of limiting how you can work on your vehicles, including your motorcycle. These attempts first started in 2015, and were pushed heavily by John Deere and the automobile lobby. Thankfully, last year the the Librarian of Congress allowed exemptions for vehicles to be applied to the DMCA, which will be in effect for the next two years. Now, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) – a group that represents the interests of motorcycle manufacturers in the United States – is putting pressure on state legislatures and encouraging them to block “Right to Repair” bills that would codify the exemptions made to the DMCA.

EBR Motorcycles Shutting Down, Yet Again

EBR Motorcycles is closing its doors…again. Yes, you heard that right. America’s superbike brand will be winding down its production operations, starting next week, and is looking for a strategic investor to takeover the brand. Liquid Asset Partners (LAP) attributes its decision to shutdown EBR Motorcycles to the company’s difficulty to secure new dealerships, and thus increase sales. As a result, LAP says that its production volume for 2016 and 2017 was below expectations. The company then finishes its explanation for closing EBR Motorcycles with the following line: “the combination of slow sales and industry announcements of other major OEM brands closing or cutting production only magnified the challenges faced by EBR.”

The Next, Next Big Thing in Motorcycles: Action Cameras

05/12/2016 @ 5:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

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I know what you are already thinking, everyone and their mom already has an action camera. To make matters worse, GoPro (the leader in this realm) has seen its stock price drop in what can only be described as a complete free fall for the past month, thanks mostly to lagging sales.

So, how can action cameras be the next, next big thing in the motorcycle industry? The answer is a simple one, if you will allow me to explain.

The next, next big thing for motorcycles isn’t the cameras themselves – those are basically already at commodity status for consumers – but instead the future for action cameras resides in integrated camera platforms for motorcycles, and other action sports.

There is a lot of business school “bullshit bingo” in that last statement, so let me break it down to you in human-speak.

Motorcycle brands need to realize how consumers are using their vehicles, and adapt to meet those needs directly. In this case, it means offering an integrated video recording solution with their motorcycles.

KTM Drops Hint of “Revolutionary” New Engine Platform

03/31/2016 @ 2:20 pm, by Jensen Beeler24 COMMENTS

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Aside from Husqvarna bringing the Vitpilen & Svartpilen concepts into production, another gem to come from KTM’s investor report for 2015 is that the Austrian company is working on what it calls a revolutionary two-cylinder engine design.

KTM is surely referencing the parallel-twin project that has been spotted a few times by spy photographers (shown above, and featured after the jump), which is rumored to feature an 800cc lump.

We are not too sure what is so revolutionary about a parallel-twin power plant – my Two Enthusiasts Podcast co-host Quentin loves to go on rants about how much he hates the engine design – but what is interesting is to hear that KTM plans on using the engine as a platform for multiple models.

Dainese D-Air Armor Now Available to Other Companies

05/29/2015 @ 1:27 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Announced today at Mugello, Dainese is making its D-air airbag technology available to other race suit manufacturers.

Calling the integrated airbag, electronics, gas generator, wiring, battery, and GPS the Dainese D-air Armor “open platform”, the Italian firm hopes to begin protecting all the riders in the Grand Prix World Championships with this new business strategy.

At its core, the D-air Armor technology is the same that Dainese-sponsored riders have been enjoying this season, and arguably the Dainese system is the best airbag system currently available use for motorcycle racers.

Rivaling Alpinstars in protecting GP riders with airbags, today’s announcement will mean that riders with other leather suit brands, will be able to get airbag protection. Dainese has already signed deals with Vircos and Furygan.

MV Agusta Working on New Four-Cylinder Platform

04/14/2015 @ 3:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler18 COMMENTS

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Even though we just finished covering the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, Yours Truly is still on the road…and I’m actually all the way out in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (near Nice, France) for the international press launch for the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800.

We have just had the media debrief on the new Adventure-Sport machine, where MV Agusta President and CEO Giovanni Castiglioni had some interesting news.

First, the Turismo Veloce is the last of the new three-cylinder models from MV Agusta, as the Italian manufacturer feels it has completely exhausted the market segments for the three-cylinder platform.

Second, the MV Agusta is in the process of bringing out an all-new four-cylinder platform, which we presumably will start seeing as early as the 2015 EICMA show, as MV Agusta expects to debut four new models for 2016.

Skully Helmets Debuts Integrated HUD Helmet

01/03/2014 @ 1:09 pm, by Aakash Desai15 COMMENTS

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Bay Area based startup, Skully Helmets, has a unique solution for the future motorcycle heads-up display (HUD) market. While other players like Nuviz and Bike HUD are developing add-on solutions for your existing helmet, Skully intends to introduce a fully integrated, standalone helmet system that internally incorporates the HUD display tech, in addition to other features.

In addition to normal HUD information features such as turn-by-turn navigation, smartphone integration, and Bluetooth connectivity, the Skully AR-1 features a 180-degree rear-view camera that affords the rider a digital representation of what’s going on behind them. Along with the fully integrated system, the rear-view camera is a major feature that sets Skully apart from its competitors.

The Four Killer Apps of the Electric Motorcycle

07/03/2012 @ 1:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Electric motorcycles: love them or hate them, our two-wheeled future is here my riding brethren. I can hear the collective groan of petrol-heads as this subject is broached though. Yes, it is hard to get excited about electric motorcycles in their current state, and why should you be excited about them? I may not blindly gush about electrics as much as the Kool-aid drinking EV crowd does, but I’m decisively on the pro-electric side of the debate. Yet, even I have a hard time looking at what is available on the market, and imagining a scenario where my hard-earned blogging dollars would grab an electric motorcycle over its internal combustion counterpart.

Part of the reason is that there is no real appealing reason to go electric at this point in time. Oh sure, you can do your part to save the environment, though the net-effect with our coal-dependent energy infrastructure will still play a tremendous detriment on the reality of one-less petrol-burning motorcycle on the road. That being said, electricity out of a home outlet is super-cheap, out of someone else’s outlet it is even cheaper, and the “where our power comes from” debate really should be looked at as separate from the green-vehicle debate. Of course, the break-even analysis on the total cost of owning a 250cc motorcycle compared to even the most robust electric motorcycle is still fairly dubious — and let’s be honest, grouping the current offering of electric motorcycles in with a 250cc commuter bike is probably a disservice to the Honda CBR250R and Kawasaki Ninja 250R’s of the world.

So with all the Negative Nancy about electrics, why am I still talking about them? Because there is tremendous potential with a fully digital powertrain, that’s why. Forget the CD vs. tape cassette analogy, this is a Pandora vs. LP shift in technology — but we just don’t have a killer app yet for electric motorcycles. Defined as “the concept that a singular feature is so prolific that its proves the core value of a larger technological system, often driving consumers to make a purchasing decision on the product or system that highlights the feature,” it is clear that electric motorcycles have yet to define the advantage they represent to motorcyclists — not because there is no value in the system, but because electric motorcycle manufacturers have failed to provide the killer app to their core technology.

As it stands now, electric motorcycles are basically conventional motorcycles with batteries and motors that replace fuel tanks and engines. It is the same basic offering that we have had since the turn of the century, except with three times the cost, forty times the refuel time, and a quarter of the range. While the big hold-up for electrics, battery technology, is still advancing rapidly, at the end of the day consumers are still be making apples-to-apples comparisons between internal combustion and electric motorcycles because only the most basic elements of this new technology is being offered by electric OEMs (i.e. getting you from Point A to Point B).

There is a tremendous amount at stake for electric motorcycle OEMs beyond just the basics of the market status quo, as the first electric motorcycle OEM that figures out how to deliver a killer app to the electric motorcycle space, is going to be the first electric motorcycle company to find real traction with the born-on-gasoline motorcycle riding masses. Progressing from immediate needs to long-term goals, I have compiled a roadmap of four killer apps that the electric motorcycle space needs to bring to market. Each killer app builds off the next, and the whole exercise concludes on what I believe is the most important idea in motorcycling. Now, who is going to be the first to make these ideas a reality?

MotoCzysz Electric D1g1tal Dr1ve: More Than Just a Glimpse into the 2010 E1pc Superbike

02/27/2010 @ 9:01 pm, by Jensen Beeler26 COMMENTS

Today MotoCzysz is announcing its Electric D1g1tal Dr1ve (eDD), better known to us as “the suitcase”, which is essentially the housing for the E1pc’s proprietary controller, motor, and batteries. MotoCzysz will be using the eDD on their 2010 E1pc D1g1tal Superbike, and intends on letting other teams use the suitcase as well, helping fill the grid at electric motorcycle races.

This announcement is important on a variety of levels, and most electric motorcycling enthusiasts will be interested to get their first glimpse at technology beind Michael Czysz’s 2010 E1pc D1g1tal Superbike, which will for sure be at the TT Zero race at the Isle of Man this year. The suitcase contains MotoCzysz proprietary battery, motor, and controller designs, which are setting the bar higher in electric motorcycle racing.

Despite being buried behind a thinly veiled dramatic buildup, this announcement is much more important than just the release of a new motorcycle design, the musings about race in the Isle of Man, the competition with Mavizen for privateer sales, or the battle for electric racing supremacy against Team Agni.

Instead this announcement has everything to do with why electric motorcycles are changing this industry, and the way this industry does business.

CRP Racing Unveils Its eCRP 1.0

01/13/2010 @ 10:24 pm, by John Adamo7 COMMENTS

Lord Drayson, UK Minister of Science and Technology, took the wraps off the TTXGP exclusive CRP Racing eCRP 1.0 today at the 4th Annual Cleaner Racing Conferance. CRP’s goal is to innovate in the world of motorcycle roadracing and the all electric race bike seems to be a good fit for the company. The eCRP 1.0 dual motor electric drive is based on 2009 TTXGP winning Team Agni X01, while the rest of the bike was designed and built in house by CRP and incorporates 30 years of race proven technological know-how.

CRP Racing does not have plans to field an electric race team but will make the bike available to teams who want to race in the TTXGP. The bike will not be available to teams wishing to run races in the competing FIM ePower Series who has yet to announce a race team entry.

Tradition Is Not A Business Model: Mission Motors

10/27/2009 @ 7:10 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

When is a motorcycle more than a bike? When does the electric motorcycle become more than a powertrain? One of the largest hurdles that electric motorcycles face (along with electric vehicles as a whole) is the public notion that these vehicles are like their internal combustion counterparts, and therefore fit into the same preconceived anatomy of what a motorcycle should look and behave like.

However, with electric motorcycles comes the opportunity to start with a fresh slate on how we move about on two-wheels. If form follows function, then with this new function should come a new form. Yet, I still find it amusing when I see electric motorcycles with fabricated fairing fuel tanks. Granted there is a lot to be said about industrial design and its relation to psychology, but I think this fact illustrates the unfluctuating desire of motorcyclists to make every square bike fit through a round-hole.

Despite this allegory, the motorcycle industry sees electric motorcycle startups challenging a lot of norms that we still cling to desperately in the motorcycle industry. Our final stop in the “Tradition Is Not A Business Model” tour of motorcycle startups, takes us to San Francisco, California and the offices of Mission Motors. Fresh on the heels of Mission’s announcement of the Neimen Marcus Limited Edition Mission One, I got a chance to sit down with company CEO/Founder Forrest North and Product Manager Jeremy Cleland, to talk about how technology changes the way we understand and use motorcycles; and perhaps more important, how manufacturers can design and build better motorcycles better in the future.